HOUSTON - (July 20, 2016) - The National Science Foundation has awarded $250,000 to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) for a project that will help mobile health clinics in Houston optimize their health care services using geographic, socio-economic and epidemiological data.
Mobile clinics play an important role in providing health care to at-risk populations in both urban and rural settings. More than 1,500 mobile clinics operate in the United States and handle more than 5 million visits per year, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With initial funding from the Texas Medical Center's Health Policy Institute, Rigoberto Delgado, Ph.D., and Linda Highfield, Ph.D., from UTHealth School of Public Health, began working with mobile clinic programs at Texas Children's Hospital, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
"These are mobile clinic programs that have evolved organically or over time to meet real needs in underserved communities. But we can use advanced analytical techniques to propose a systematic expansion of this essential health care delivery model and maximize the use of our health care investment," said Delgado, assistant professor in the Department of Management, Policy and Community Health at UTHealth School of Public Health.
In this new two-year project funded by the National Science Foundation, researchers will expand the pilot from three to eight mobile clinic programs at institutions across the Texas Medical Center.
Researchers will use geographic information system technology and statistical software to analyze demographic and disease pattern data across Houston. This will help them identify areas where mobile clinics could have the highest impact in target communities at the lowest cost. The researchers will also propose strategies to meet future health care demands in the most effective manner and will identify potential new partners in health centers across Houston.
Delgado hopes to eventually expand the program throughout the state.
Jiming Peng, Ph.D., from the University of Houston, is a co-principal investigator on the project.